Health Insurance for a Vagabond?? Help!!

Before leaving the country, I managed to set up my life such that I would not have to deal with too many things while abroad. I consolidated banks, closed accounts, sold my vehicles, etc. The day I left I did not have a single ‘account payable’ other than the one credit card that I am traveling with.

Unfortunately, one thing that I did not have time to look into was health insurance. As part of my severance package I was allowed to keep my IBM insurance for 6 months, and then Obama’s Stimulus package somehow gave me a 65% subsidy for another couple of months. Needless to say, as of Sep 1, I’m looking at $150 a month to keep my sweet Kaiser Permanente insurance under COBRA and that jumps to $355 on December 1. Given that I’m out of the country and already have secondary travelers health insurance, I assume I really only need CYA (cover my ass) insurance in case the unthinkable happens and I need serious medical care back home. I also need to avoid the dreaded ‘uninsured period’ that can cause issues in the future if an insurance company deems a symptom ‘pre-existing’. I have met travelers who ONLY have traveler insurance and no home coverage, this sounds risky but may be a short-term option for me. I’m not even sure if secondary traveler health insurance is even valid without primary insurance at home.

I have not been following the Healthcare Reform news, but I think whatever happens it won’t be in time for me. Doing a search on the web only confuses matters more – there are HSA plans, HIA plans, high-deductable, no deductible, coinsurance, blah blah blah. I did take a look at Blue Cross/Blue Shield and they e-mailed me a list of over 18 options, with monthly payments ranging from $39 to $499 a month! There are apparently 10 different healthcare providers in the Denver/Boulder area and I really don’t have time to look into each one. Does anyone have an idea of what an ‘office visit’ costs? I’ve never had to pay anything more than a $20 deductable.

My hunch at this point is to lean on one of the high-deductable, HSA plans while I’m out of the country, re-evaluating when I get home from this trip. I’ve heard that creating a company and listing oneself as self-employed is also a loophole to get lower rates, so this needs to be investigated too.

Anyone who has lost his or her j-o-b, has needed to find health insurance while self-employed or has considered the various options while traveling, please send me an email!

6 thoughts on “Health Insurance for a Vagabond?? Help!!

  1. Hi Keith,
    Whatever you do, DO NOT go without insurance….for all the reasons you stated. You need some coverage just in case of a catastrophy. Regarding “office visit” costs….it depends. I live in the NYC area, and my doctors (who do not belong to any plan, and I use my “out of network” benefits) charge over $600 for a yearly physical. Even my daughter’s pediatrician charges over $100 for a 5 min visit to check an alergic reaction to a bug bite.

  2. Hey Keith,
    I hope you are feeling better. I would go with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Get the Highest deductible because your premium will be lower. You can always change it when you get back home. I was without insurance for 3 months and it makes it that much harder to find a company that will cover you. You always seem to need coverage when you don’t have it so definitely have some type of backup. I wasn’t insured when I first found out I was pregnant…not a good thing! Oh and with BCBS you should only have to pay 15 dollars for an office visit! Safe Travels!

  3. office visit is $125-ish.
    ER can be up to $2000-ish depending on treatment.
    Go without health insurance. Wait it out. I am an insurance hater. You can get treatment at a clinic for $50/visit, which is less than ideal, but ok for young people without a lot of ailments.
    I don’t have health insurance (as of Sept 30) and J doesn’t have any and we live just fine. I am frightened by what the new bill is morphing into as the repubs and dems massage it to be in favor of the already terrible insurance companies.

    And when I paid $19 for two tylenol at the hospital, I saw how greedy the greed really was.

  4. Jeri, Heidi, Katie-

    Thank you for all of the feedback! The cheapest plan at Blue Cross is only $39 a month, so I think I will likely get this one for piece of mind. While there is a 99% likelyhood I wont use it, its hard to justify skiing, climbing, and riding on the back of motorcycles in third-world countries full of malaria carrying mosquitoes with no insurance!

  5. Hi Keith,
    I just came across this post by Googling “vagabond health insurance options.” My goal is to leave around this November (2011), most likely to SE Asia. There are a lot of things that need to be worked out, but out of all the unknowns and warnings that go along with vagabonding, the one thing that intimidates me is the insurance issue. Can you give an update? A year and a few months later, what would you suggest?

    This is my first visit to your blog, but it looks good, I’ll keep reading!


    • Hi Dan,

      Health insurance is a tricky one. I ended up doing two things:

      1. Getting CYA(cover-your-ass) coverage from a health-care provider at home. I choose a policy with a $7000 deductible that cost me about $40 a month. This was a plan called Smart Sense 7000 through Anthem/Blue Cross. What I liked about it is that it allowed for 3, $30 doctor visits per calendar year. As an avid skier, rock climber, adventurer, I still have this policy, as a ‘just in case’ something really bad happens to me I’ll be covered.

      2. The second thing I did was get a travel policy from Travel Guard called Worldhealth International. I think it cost me $1.60 a day or something. Never used it, but great for peace of mind.

      Some told me I could have done away with #1 while traveling and only gone with #2, but for $40 a month it was worth it to me to have the extra and backup coverage….

      Good luck and have a great trip!

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